Business Support Network: Diverse workplace likened to a smoothie in presentation

Gord Fortin
Lakeside Leader

The topic of this month’s Slave Lake Business Support Network was inclusive leadership and managing diverse employees.
Natalie Rose, continuing education and corporate training liaison at Northern Lakes College, made a presentation on the topic at the Jan. 18 meeting held in the Slave Lake town council chambers.
She kicked off her presentation by inviting people to do an activity. Several attendees were asked to stand on a rug with the goal of getting it flipped over with the other side facing up. Participants had to work to together to get this done while not stepping off the rug.
Rose said diversity can be an overused buzzword but there are benefits to it. One such advantage is that it gives people a chance to participate in decision making in the workplace, which in turn makes people happy.
To be inclusive, Rose said it is important to ask about identities and learn about a wide array of opinions. This is important because people act different and engage with others differently. The nuances need to be taken into account.
“You have to learn to work with other people,” she said.
The focus of inclusion, should be meeting the needs of every individual which will allow them to reach their potential. Rose said this makes people empowered.
Rose explained that some people tend to not include everyone in decision making and some people may isolate themselves in small groups. She equated inclusion to a smoothie. The beverage can gain much more nutrition if you add more ingredients. The same can be said in the workplace with more people.
Rose said being inclusive can increase a businesses productivity, be a well of new ideas and give a positive public image that you won’t have to advertise. She explained this can be as simple as hiring someone who may speak a other languages alongside English. That individual may have new ideas to bring to the table.
Rose elaborated on this further, warning against excluding people from a discussion because of their ability. Someone may not have the skills and qualifications to make a decision in the workplace on paper but that person may have a new idea that could be fruitful.
Rose explained that she learned about inclusion while spending time in Europe. She was there as part of her field placement in her post secondary education. She was included in budget and marketing meetings. She would not have been included if this was in Canadian. She was not used to that and it allowed her to get experience that her classmates did not.
Rose suggested some strategies. These include saying hello to everyone, getting to know your coworkers and take an interest in them. She said you don’t have to be friends with everybody, but the idea would be to find out why your co-workers work the way they do. She explained this will be a benefit as people will appreciate the attention and as a manger you will understand what is going on in your department.
If a coworkers speaks in a way you don’t understand, Rose advised to just ask them what they meant. Don’t make fun of the person for their speech patters or accent. If someone brings forward a new idea, she feels it is important to keep an open mind.
Lastly, Rose suggested discussing diversity on a monthly basis and set goals the reach.
The next BSN meeting will be on Feb. 15 and there will be a presentation on Alberta’s power lines.

Natalie Rose, continuing education and corporate training liaison at Northern Lakes College, left, speaks on inclusive leadership and managing diverse employees at the Jan. 18 Slave Lake Business Support Network meeting.

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